£13.4m fine for Southern Rail over poor performance slammed as 'slap on the wrist'

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The multi-million pound fine handed to Southern rail’s parent company has been branded “a slap on the wrist” by unions.

Southern’s owners Govia Thameslink (GTR) were hit with a £13.4 million fine over its poor performance, it was announced on Thursday.

GTR described the decision as a “fair outcome” that draws a line under an issue hanging over the franchise for months.

But Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) general secretary Mick Cash said the Government’s response “let them off the hook.”

Mr Cash said: “This pathetic response to the abject failure by Southern/GTR to deliver on their contract doesn’t even stack up to a slap on the wrist. 

“No wonder the company are gloating… Grayling has let them off the hook big style.”

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling ordered GTR to pay the £13.4 million package of improvements, which includes funding 50 on-board supervisors.

The rail company has been involved in a bitter dispute with unions over proposals for driver-only trains.

After the start of industrial action in April last year, the rail company lodged a claim to force majeure on the unions, blaming them for its suffering service.

But Mr Grayling concluded that “this does not fully explain the poor service that passengers received.”

Alongside the strikes, Southern has been impacted by extensive railway improvement works.

GTR admitted it had “underestimated” the impact of this.

On the strikes, Mr Grayling said passengers have been “badly let down” and described the industrial action as “totally unjustified.”

He added: “But GTR must also do better in providing services to its passengers. When trains are cancelled unnecessarily it can cause huge disruption. 

“And when trains are shorter than they ought to be, it can leave already busy services unbearably overcrowded.”

Charles Horton, chief executive of GTR, said the company is “pleased” to see an end to the issue.

He said: “We are pleased that this issue has been concluded, and accept and are sorry that our service levels haven’t been good enough for passengers.

“We run the most congested network in the UK where passenger journeys have doubled in the last 12 years.

“This has meant we have been running services for more and more passengers while also allowing stations to be rebuilt, platforms extended, track and signalling replaced and new trains and technology introduced too.”

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